Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Art Journals & Creative Healing

I buy most of my books online because there are no bookstores in my neighborhood. And of course it doesn’t hurt that Amazon and Chapters have lower prices, which means you end up getting more books in the long run. The problem is you don’t always get the chance to look at the books you want first.
Take Art Journals & Creative Healing by Susan Soneff for example. The main reason I bought it was to finish off the amount on a gift card. Once the book arrived, I took a quick look at it and then set it aside.
Why? Because it looked like heavy-duty stuff to me and I’m usually in the mood for eye candy. As someone who has struggled with depression off and on for most of her adult life, I like to avoid the negative and just peace out. But for months now, Soneff’s book has been sitting around waiting for me to notice it, so I finally took a deep breath and plunged in.
Just as I suspected, there were plenty of soul-wrenching moments inside. Women with everything from anorexia and cancer, to depression and MS share their personal stories and journal entries. While there are visually moving pages here, and plenty of creative tips, the main emphasis is on being brave enough to chronicle your journey through words and images.
Even though journaling is used in clinical and therapeutic settings, and research supports the benefits, I have to admit I’m skeptical. I say this because writing in my journal allows me to vent, but I can’t say it helps me; it simply seems to be something I’m in the habit of doing.
However, it occurred to me while I was working through Soneff’s book that I’m in a rut. Like a hamster on her wheel, I do what I do and forget to focus on choices or different perspectives. In short, I don’t go that deeply into things when I journal, although it may seem like it when I’m upset.

I’ve thought quite a bit about this book since I finished it last week. In the next couple of days, I’ll be finishing off my current journal and I’ve decided that I need to take a different approach. I’m not sure what this will be, but I think it’s time to be more honest with myself, so I’ll let you know what happens.


José said...

I understand where you're coming from. But why take a different approach when you were happy creating the way you do? Why the need to plunge deeper? We are so easily upset and influenced. Just do what you like doing, don't make it therapy. Hope you don't mind me making this comment. Wish you well. José

manus said...

Everybody has it's own way!
Sometimes it feels right for me just to play with colours and to scribble in my journal without any deeper meaning. But sometimes it's freeing to let out my emotions on these pages. I'm sure you'll find your way and I'm curious about this.
Best wishes, Manuela

Courtney said...

Creative healing... I love that idea. I'll have to check it out!

La Dolce Vita said...

Hi Susan! this is a great post! I will check out the book. I co-facilitate an art journal group and it would be great to pass on the info. Thanks for sharing this.
also, thanks for the visit, so glad you liked my pieces. Like you, I only hand stitch! caterina

martha brown said...

Ray bought this book for me last year. He liked the cover, lol. I liked the art, but passed it onto a friend who suffers from depression. She said that she loved the book.....

indybev said...

Well, Susan, here's my rant on the subject of journaling. A journal is a personal thing. Some people choose to pour out their heart's discontent. Perhaps this is therapy for some; to me it seems to lend credence to the discontent. I'm on journal #14. I'm creating my journals as if some future descendant is picking them up to learn more about me. They contain some favorite poems (original and otherwise), little essays I've written in workshops, a recount of the highlights of my days -- reviews of books I read, movies I see, current events and politics, and artistic endeavors that strike my fancy. They include the sort of thing I would like to know about my grandmother, many generations removed. Don't second guess yourself, Susan. Let your journals be what you want them to be ...your own personal statement. ........ and this is probably more than you ever wanted to know!! LOL

SweetbriarStudio (Christie) said...

When I journal, I find the most helpful entries are when I am writing to someone. A lot of times, it's God. But sometimes, it's like I'm having a conversation with myself. I am amazed at how many discoveries I've made and the depth of those discoveries. But I have to write for a while in one sitting to give the deep stuff time to surface.
Whatever direction you decide to take, I hope it's a productive, healing, and exciting(!), one.

me again said...

I do not journal -- I have no burning desire to journal. I do like to sketch and to doodle and for a time devoted a bound sketchpad to that, but hated the "formality" of having a specific place where I "should" be fiddling about.

Having said all that, I do believe that sometimes it helps me to articulate and get control of my emotions if I write things out; specifically, a list. I read this about 20 years ago: when feeling down, get a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and on one side write everything that is wrong with your life, whether you have control of it or not. You could write that you need to lose weight, you could write that you're sad because of a death in the family, you could write that you're annoyed because fresh tomatoes are too expensive at the market. Whatever. If it bothers you, it goes on the list, no matter how petty or silly or important. And on the other side, you guessed it, write down absolutely everything that is good in your life, everything from those that you love and who love you, to the fact that your kitchen floor is clean or you love the book you're currently reading. What strikes your fancy.

It's illuminating to see what you list. And then .... pick just one thing from the "wrong" list and try to do something about it, even if that means it's something you decide just not to fret or worry about anymore. Then scratch it off the list. Gone.

It may sound weird, but try it sometime. I always find that the list on my "good" side is always longer than I expect :-)


Sandy Michelle said...

This book was on Nataleas' coffee table to I had the chance to read it too and also found it inspiring. I didn't know you had depression in the past. I had it as a teen and felt that writing in a journal really helped. However, since my writing was negative, I never re-read the pages and tore some out. Hopefully I'll see you and Martha soon!

Sandy xoxo

Ganga Fondan said...

Hello Susan,
My whole way of songwriting and journaling transformed the day my husband (who was undergoing intense medical treatments at the time) listened to a song I wrote and replied : "That is such a sad song. There is already so much pain in the world. Why don't you write something uplifting." From that moment on I pledged to myself that everything that pours out will have the intention for making life easier for me and those around me. We wrote songs together to lift us out of fear and worry about finances or to conquer the fear of dying. My journaling contained so much gratitude and hope which poured out into all areas of my life. Thoughts are seeds that grow in the garden of our Being. I have had to learn this the hard way but I feel so blessed to know what I know now. This has been my experience with journaling and creating. I look forward to your unfolding.

"Writing crystalizes thought." - Tulshi Sen